Since my mother has been recommending Fool by Christopher Moore to me for years (which I still haven’t read – sorry, Mom), I picked up Lamb for some light holiday reading.
Levi who is called Biff has been resurrected by the angel Raziel two thousand years after his death to write the next Gospel of Jesus’ life. Biff first meets Joshua (the original translation of Jesus’ name) when they are six years old living in Nazareth and sticks with him throughout the rest of their lives, so he is well-qualified to fill in the large gaps of time that the other Gospels have left. Since most of my knowledge about Jesus comes from Jesus Christ Superstar, Biff is the ideal narrator. He’s not always on the same page with the whole Messiah gig, but he dutifully tags along with Josh anyway to lend his own particular brand of support. Together, they travel across the world to find the three wise men present at Joshua’s birth so that Joshua can learn how to be a proper Messiah.
Lamb is a greatly entertaining adventure. I enjoyed Moore’s laugh-out-loud humor but there are moments of real heart as well. Moore isn’t just having a good laugh at Joshua’s mysterious life; he’s also exploring how someone could go from a precocious kid to the actual Messiah, albeit with great humor, through thorough study of many philosophies (the Torah, Lao Tzu, Confucius, Buddha, Hinduism) and through experiences with all manner of people (monks, Untouchables, a stray yeti). It’s irreverent, it’s outrageous, it’s funny, and towards the end it’s heartbreaking, and there is a real story being told in all of that. My only complaint is that on occasion the humor was too contrived, like sending Joshua and Biff to China mostly so Moore could set up a joke about eating Chinese food on Joshua’s birthday. Most of the time, however, the references were cleverly inserted and the humor was very organic.
Moore’s Joshua is also the Jesus I like to imagine. He has the ability for healing, resurrecting and calming people from the time he is a child, but he struggles to learn how he should grow up to be the Messiah and what he needs to do. He doesn’t figure it out right away in a divine message either; he spends years evolving his beliefs. And even though he loves everyone and believes what people say, Joshua is not above some sarcasm and joking around with Biff. He sees the bigger picture (starting with maybe the Lord doesn’t mind if people eat bacon), which I for one appreciate in a Messiah.